To this day, there are certain songs that no matter how much time has passed, the moment I hear it I am instantly transported back to a certain time in my life when that song was significant in my life. I can remember being a kid and geeking out with my Dad when Elton John's "Nikita" came on, because the bass was so excellent! (played by none other than the one and only Pino Palladino!!) He would crank up the volume and I would get goosebumps because it just affected me like that. There are other songs like BB King's "The Thrill Is Gone" that remind me of when I had a job after school working at a liquor store, stocking the shelves, and doing inventory in the warehouse. It was a big liquor store! And that song would play every day on the house music system. So now, whenever I hear that song, I am instantly transported back to those aisles where all the booze was for sale.
In my professional career, there are certain songs that I've had to PLAY often. I mean OFTEN. Ask any working musician that has had a career of 10 years plus in the music business and I'm sure they'll agree with me. But what I think is interesting is that some songs are ONLY, or mostly played in certain parts of the country. An example would be Bruce Springsteen. I don't think I've EVER had to play a Springsteen song anywhere in the world except for NYC and New Jersey. This is also true for Billy Joel. It is so rare that any of his songs are called anywhere else. Another example is the band Sublime. Until I moved out west, I had never even HEARD of the band. But I had to learn a couple of their hits really quick once I was there.
For me, here is a list of songs and the working situation I was in that I instantly associate with said song, along with the corresponding time in my life.
Disclaimer: Some of these are still songs that I like and enjoy playing and listening to. Others, if I never heard it again, it would be too soon.
1. "I Gotta Feeling" by Black Eyed Peas - Almost every lounge band in Las Vegas that I played in. This song was so requested that we sometimes had to play it twice in one night. Just dreadful. Have you even listened to the "lyrics"? It's like a bad nursery rhyme. [Living in Las Vegas around the 2012-2014 era]
2. "Last Dance" by Donna Summer - This song was part of the closing medley in a production show that I played on the ms Westerdam while working as a crew member musician for Holland America Cruises. The song in the show was edited for time in the intro (shortened) and "simplified" in a way that took out all of the cool syncopations because apparently it was too difficult for the average cruise ship musician to play correctly. [In my early 20's]
3. "Rosalita" by Bruce Springsteen - I had never heard of this song when it was introduced to me by the wedding band I was working with in New York City. It was a crowd pleaser for them and a staple in their set list. It's one of those 1970's style EPIC long masterpieces with all these tempo changes and breaks and stops, and the drummer is all over the place on this one. I remember it being really hard to learn and play with any kind of authenticity, but I learned to like it. When I hear this song now, I still like it. [In my late 20's]
4. "Blue Bossa" by Joe Henderson - I associate this song with learning how to play through chord changes in jazz improv class at college. It was just played so often by every jazz combo that I was in. When this song gets called on stage, I get this strong urge to just "turn off" and it's like I'm a fly on the wall just watching myself mechanically play the drums until the end. [Ithaca College years 1994-1998]
5. "Wagon Wheel" by ... I still don't even know who it's by, because it doesn't really matter. All you Nashville-ians saw this one coming didn't you? I had never even heard of this song before I moved to Nashville. Take a walk down lower Broadway and I guarantee you'll hear this song bleeding out from one of the live music honky tonks with open doors and windows. The thing of it is, it's not a bad song! It's just requested so damned often that I can't figure out how anyone is not totally sick of it. [Current time and place]
6. "What Is Hip" by Tower of Power - If I have to hear one more so called R&B or horn band shit the bag all the way through this song, I'm gonna scream. Message to band leaders - if your drummer can't play tight and soft, or doesn't know what linear means, or has never copped a David Garibaldi groove in his/her life, or generally just plays sloppy time, DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS SONG. I love this song and it hurts my ears when I hear it being played badly, which is almost 100% of the time. Even Garibaldi can't play it like he used to!!! Seriously, go listen to the old live records, now go listen to the modern live records. It's very different. It's not totally his fault though. IMO, Chester Thompson was a big part of that pocket and sound that was TOP, as well as the conga pattern that you hear on the original recordings. [Every horn band in Las Vegas]
7. "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynard Skynard - The Mother Ship of live band bar songs. Here's the thing. This is a really good song with a nice groove and a pretty slick guitar line. It's no wonder why you hear it all over the USA in every bar room and lounge band, from dive bars to billion dollar casino lounges. Growing up and hearing this song, it was just another song to me, until I started gigging in working bands and dance bands. That's when it became another thing that is just repeated so often, and usually so badly that it's something that I just endure now. While living in Vegas, I had my own cover band called Zack Attack, and to battle the boring repetition I felt while playing this song, I came up with my own arrangement of it, in 7/8 of course! Here's a link to us playing it at the Tropicana on the Las Vegas Strip. https://youtu.be/sige9G9PBwY I hope you enjoy it!
8. "Do It Again" by Steely Dan - I remember having to play this song in Middle School Stage Band, which was a precursor to High School's Jazz Ensemble. I can remember feeling bad for the percussionist in the band having to play that boring cabasa part for the entirety of the song. HA! I never really liked this song. Probably my LEAST favorite Steely Dan song. [Middle School]
9. "Please Release Me" by Englebert Humperdinck - I had to play this song many times when I was a kid and playing with my family who had a band. We played most every weekend throughout the year and especially during the summer months. It was a band that played polkas and waltzes, but we always played a set of country & western music and a number of old style rock n roll songs like Johnny B. Goode, etc. Whenever I hear this song it reminds me of all the venues we used to play. Old bar rooms, restaurants, hotels, state and county fair's, etc. Weddings, anniversaries, festivals, parties of all kind. Lots of wonderful memories from those formative years! [age 11-18]
10. "St. Thomas" by Sonny Rollins - I had to play this song pretty often when I played drums on a cruise ship during my early 20's. We used to play "sail away" sets outside on the cruise ship deck right when the ship was sailing away from whatever port we might've been docked in that day. It could be fun (with a good band), or not, depending who was in the band. [early 20's]
Bonus songs- these aren't songs that I ever had to play professionally but they remind me of a certain period of my life.
"King Of Pain" by The Police - This song totally takes me back to watching MTV after school before my parents got home from work. This video was in pretty heavy rotation back then and I have this visual image of Sting knocking down all the candles in slow motion (which, as I think back now, was pretty cool imagery!). BONUS QUESTION... That first snare hit from the one and only Stewart Copeland, what beat is it on? LOL
"Don't Want To Lose You Now" by Miami Sound Machine - I remember being in 7th grade and my Spanish class teacher had printed out the the lyrics for this song (the Spanish lyrics version) and we all had to read along and try to decipher what the lyrics meant. Crazy right? But I also remember her playing a live concert video of the band playing all their hits (many of them sung in Spanish), and me just being mesmerized by all the cool drums and percussion that were in the band, not to mention the horn section, and all the great rhythm section parts too. That was an all-star band. I can remember the bell ringing for us to go to the next class, and I just sat there watching as long as I could, before she turned off the TV.
Alright that's enough. Please check out my performing schedule and don't forget that the Miles Davis tribute that I lead called MILEStones is playing a show coming up on July 21st at Rudy's Jazz Room. Show is 8pm. Hope to see you jazz lovers!